Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Political Hostility and Willingness to Discriminate in Philosophy

A new study of nearly 800 academic philosophers provides support for several claims about their political views, perceptions of politics-based hostility, and willingness to engage in politics-based discrimination. The study, “Ideological Diversity, Hostility, and Discrimination in Philosophy“, by Uwe Peters (KU Leuven), Nathan Honeycutt (Rutgers), Andreas De Block (KU Leuven), and Lee Jussim (Rutgers), is forthcoming in Philosophical Psychology. Their findings include the following: “Philosophers are predominantly left leaning” 74.8% of philosophers are left-leaning, 14.2% were right-leaning, 11% were moderates. Analytic philosophers in general identified as slightly less left-leaning than continental philosophers. Additionally, “participants also perceived their colleagues as primarily left-leaning” and “viewed them as more left-leaning than themselves” “The more right-leaning the participant, the more hostility they reported personally experiencing from colleagues, and, overall, the more left-leaning the participant, the less hostility they reported personally experiencing.” “Participants also perceived right-leaning individuals in the field… to experience more hostility than left-leaning subjects.” “Participants reported that they would be more reluctant to defend their own argument if it led to a right-leaning conclusion… than if it led to a left-leaning one” “There was [More]

Agnes Callard’s List of “views that are considered controversial that shouldn’t be”

“There’s no such thing as being good or bad at philosophy.” That’s item #12 on a list of “views that are considered controversial that shouldn’t be” that philosopher Agnes Callard (Chicago) offered up in a new interview at What Is It Like To Be A Philosopher?. Interviewer Clifford Sosis (Coastal Carolina) asks, “How is it not possible to be bad at philosophy?” Callard replies: You can be good at something either by having mastered it or having a talent for it. Philosophy is unmasterable—there is no body of knowledge that could ground a claim to expertise. As for talents, the ones I can think of—being quick with distinctions, being a good writer, being good at learning formal or natural languages—are double edged swords, because they make you easily divertible from the project of philosophizing. I think we project a talent for philosophy into anyone we respect as a philosopher to protect ourselves against the scary thought that it’s our own fault we’re not like that. In fact, nothing’s stopping us but ourselves. Here’s her whole list: Socrates was not ironic. Plato wrote dialogues because that format is ideal for presenting arguments in premise-conclusion form. Aristotle’s enkratic person can (and, indeed, must) have phronesis. Aristotle’s pro-slavery stance runs deep into his ethics, not clear whether it can be excised. Kant’s ethics forms the basis of our strongest moral reactions. Nietzsche’s view of [More]

Philosophers Win Several Large Grants in the Netherlands

Several philosophers are among the winners of large grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). They are: Reinhard Muskens (UvA) for “A Sentence Uttered Makes a World Appear” (€770,850 / $860,000) Hearing a sentence enables one to make a mental picture of its content. ‘The cat is on the mat’ is a sequence of words first and then an image. But how does that work? Our research uses logic and computation to answer this question. Robert van Rooij (UvA) for “Why We Believe Sharks Are Dangerous” We accept generic sentences like ‘Sharks are dangerous’, although sharks only seldomly attack us. It is important to understand why, because stereotypes are also expressed by such generic sentences. We  want to investigate whether the acceptance of such generalizing sentences can be explained by the way  expectations are learned. Han van Ruler (EUR) for “Decoding Descartes” Decoding Descartes unravels the ideas of the founder of modern philosophy and science René Descartes (1596–1650) in response to contemporary deadlocks in philosophy, psychology and neuroscience. By reevaluating Descartes’ work and correspondence, the project shows Descartes is still decisively relevant for contemporary debates in multiple disciplines from humanities to neuroscience. Maartje Schermer (EUR) for “Health and disease as practical concepts: a pragmatist approach to conceptualization of health and disease” Scientific, [More]

How to Write a Referee Report (guest post by John Greco)

The following is a guest post* by John Greco, who is currently Leonard and Elizabeth Eslick Chair in Philosophy at Saint Louis University, but will soon be taking up the McDevitt Chair in Philosophy at Georgetown University. It first appeared at The Philosopher’s Cocoon. How to Write a Referee Report  by John Greco I am sure that there will be varying opinions about how to write a referee report. In keeping with the spirit of this series, I here offer my own opinion, based on my own experience as someone who has written and read quite a few such reports. I have written them as a referee, of course. I have read some as an author, but many more as the editor of a major philosophy journal. It is this last perspective, I believe, that is most useful for present purposes. For referee reports, remember, are written primarily for journal editors.[1] That is, the defining purpose of a referee report—its raison d’etre—is to help a journal editor to make a decision about a submission. And that is what gives us insight into the criteria for a good referee report. Already I have said something (at least one thing) that is substantive and controversial. That is, I don’t think that everyone would agree that this is indeed the primary purpose of a referee report. Many writers of such reports seem to think (or at least this is what I gather from reading their reports) that referee reports are primarily directed at authors, and for the purpose of improving the paper [More]

The Political Views of Philosophy Majors

U.S. philosophy majors in the are more likely to have favorable attitudes towards socialism than undergraduates majoring in other subjects, according to a new poll by College Pulse. The poll surveyed 10,590 undergraduates. According to it, 39% of philosophy majors had a “very favorable” view of socialism, more than any other major and nearly double that of the next highest group—English majors—at 21%. Another 39% of philosophy majors have a “somewhat favorable” view of socialism, leading both College Pulse and Newsweek to report the results with this headline: “Almost 80% of Philosophy Majors Favor Socialism.” (Note to journalists: if you write about philosophers, you can expect them to point out things like the equivocation between the modest sense of “favorable” in the poll questions and the all-things-considered comparative implication of “favor” in the headline—that is, having even a very favorable view of socialism does not imply that one favors socialism over its alternatives.) Below is a graph showing the poll results for several majors. You can read more about the poll here and see some demographic details here. The post The Political Views of Philosophy Majors appeared first on Daily [More]

Gender, Topics, and Publication: Clues from Political Science?

A new study in political science provides evidence for an explanation of why “women are more likely to leave the profession than men” and why “those who stay are promoted at lower rates.” The study, “You Research Like a Girl: Gendered Research Agendas and Their Implications,” looks at the gender distribution of authors on various topics in political science and then checks to see how well those topics are discussed in top political science journals. The authors, Ellen M. Key (Appalachian State) and Jane Lawrence Sumner (Minnesota), used dissertation topics in political science to determine the gender distribution on specific topics and created the following chart depicting them: They then asked, “Are topics most favored by women less likely to appear in top journals?” adding: If this were true, it could provide an explanation for the leaky pipeline. That is, if women pursue topics that—for whatever reason—are less likely to be published in major journals than topics pursued by men, they may fare less well in tenure and promotion and therefore be less likely to be promoted or more likely to leave the discipline. If “appearing in the top three journals” is also a heuristic for being valued by the field as a whole, this could indicate that topics written about more often by women may be less valued by hiring committees, suggesting another pathway by which women may leave the discipline. They looked at three top [More]

Publishing Philosophy One Doesn’t Believe

“Is there anything wrong with publishing philosophical work which one does not believe?” That is the central question of “Publishing Without Belief,” a recent article in Analysis by Alexandra Plakias, assistant professor of philosophy at Hamilton College. Professor Plakias argues that publishing without belief is not wrong: “the practice isn’t intrinsically wrong, nor is there a compelling consequentialist argument against it.” Here are some of the reasons she offers for her answer: “requiring philosophers to publish only what is true, or what they know, advantages philosophers with more permissive standards for knowledge or truth, while disadvantaging those with higher standards.” “biographical information about the author—including his or her personal convictions—should be… irrelevant to assessments of the merits of their argument… we don’t necessarily base our acceptance of an argument on the speaker’s (or author’s) attitude towards it.” Publishing without belief doesn’t necessarily involve hypocrisy, lack of thoroughness, or insouciance (bullshitting). “The speaker (or writer) who doesn’t believe her argument isn’t telling her audience that she believes what she’s saying—she’s asking the audience to believe it.” We don’t have sufficient reasons to think that “a philosopher won’t whole-heartedly defend a view she’s put into print, even if she isn’t [More]

Philosopher Named to New State Dept. Commission on Unalienable Rights

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo earlier this week announced the creation of a new “Commission on Unalienable Rights,” comprised of scholars and activists interested in various dimensions of human rights, law, and religion, to provide him with “advice on human rights grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Among the dozen individuals named as members of the committee is University of South Carolina Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Department of Philosophy Chair Christopher Tollefsen. The commission will be led by Mary Ann Glendon (Harvard Law) and also includes Russell Berman (Stanford, Hoover Institution), Peter Berkowitz (Hoover Institution), Paolo Carozza (Notre Dame Law and Political Science), Hamza Yusuf Hanson (Zaytuna College), Jacqueline Rivers (Seymour Institute), Meir Soloveichik (Rabbi, Congregation Shearith Israel), Kiron Skinner (State Dept.), Katrina Lantos Swett (Lantos Foundation), David Tse-Chien Pan (UC Irvine), and Cartright Weiland (State Dept.). Pompeo said: I hope that the commission will revisit the most basic of questions: What does it mean to say or claim that something is, in fact, a human right? How do we know or how do we determine whether that claim that this or that is a human right, is it true, and therefore, ought it to be honored? How can there be human rights, rights we possess not as privileges we are granted or even earn, but [More]

Should We Get Rid of Peer Review?

“Where philosophers of science have claimed the social structure of science works well, their arguments tend to rely on things other than peer review, and that where specific benefits have been claimed for peer review, empirical research has so far failed to bear these out. Comparing this to the downsides of peer review, most prominently the massive amount of time and resources tied up in it, we conclude that we might be better off abolishing peer review” That’s from the introduction of a new paper by Remco Heesen (Western Australia) and Liam Kofi Bright (LSE), “Is Peer Review a Good Idea?“, in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. According to Heesen and Bright, the empirical evidence for the effectiveness of peer review in assessing the quality of research is “mixed at best.” Peer review’s limited effectiveness would perhaps not be a problem if it required little time and effort from scientists [which the authors use broadly to include researchers working in the sciences, social sciences, and the humanities]. But in fact the opposite is true. Going from a manuscript to a published article involves many hours of reviewing work by the assigned peer reviewers and a significant time investment from the editor handling the submission. The editor and reviewers are all scientists themselves, so the epistemic opportunity cost of their reviewing work is significant: instead of reviewing, they could be doing more science. Their [More]

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